In any kitchen, regardless of how often you cook or how much you chop and dice, a quality chef’s knife is essential. The fact is that a sharper knife makes it easier to slice rather than to tear and slide, which may seem counterintuitive.
What would be the best way to determine whether the knife you are considering is actually a quality knife?
Best performance is obtained by using a forged stainless steel blade with high carbon content. It is the most expensive option, but one that holds a sharp edge the best. Stainless steel and carbon steel knives are less expensive options if budget is your primary concern.
It’s best to get a durable laminate handle instead of wood or plastic, as wood and plastic can both harbor bacteria.
With any of the highlighted knives we offer, you can be confident you’re buying a quality product. Continue reading for more details on materials, care, and using tips.
The Basics of Kitchen Knives
Home cooks need these three types of knives at a minimum: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.
There is no serrated edge on this large, all-purpose knife. It typically measures eight inches in length. It is possible to mince, dice, chop, and slice with a chef’s knife.
Paring knives are smaller than chefs’ knives. A typical paring knife has a blade that is three or four inches long without serrations. A paring knife can be used for cutting, chopping, peeling, and filleting.
In spite of their name, these knives are not strictly for slicing bread, although they are effective at it. They usually have a nine- or ten-inch blade. As well as slicing tomatoes, cakes, and meat with a bread knife, you can also slice soft fruits and vegetables.
If you are an avid cook, you should consider getting a utility knife. Utilities typically measure between seven inches and chef’s knives, as they are somewhere between them. Utility knives come in handy when your chef’s knife is too large and your paring knife is too small.
Stamped VS. Forged Knife Construction
Knives that are forged are made by heating a solid piece of metal to a high temperature and pounding it into shape. A forged knife is more expensive than a stamped knife due to the elaborate production process. Their edges tend to hold very well, and they are usually heavier and thicker than stamped knives.
A stamped knife is made by punching steel and then sharpening it. The majority of serious chefs prefer forged knives over stamped knives, even though some stamped chef’s knives are excellent and less expensive. This type of blade is tempting, but we strongly urge potential buyers not to discount it. Stamped knives are also a good option if you do not need to use your chef’s knife very often.
Choosing Your Knife’s Metal
In almost every kitchen, you’ll find stainless steel. Additionally, it is the least expensive.
- Pros: Doesn’t rust, it’s durable, sharpens easily, and it doesn’t stain
- Cons: Doesn’t hold an edge as well as other metals
Some chefs prefer blades made of carbon steel, but you’ll pay more for this premium metal.
- Pros: Easily sharpens, holds edge
- Cons: It tends to discolor or develop a patina, is more expensive than stainless steel, and rusts
Stainless steel high-carbon is stronger than stainless steel low-carbon, but has a higher percentage of carbon in the steel mixture, so it won’t rust or discolor as easily as carbon steel. This metal will, however, cost much more.
- Pros: The material keeps a sharp edge very well and is not prone to rust or staining
- Cons: The price of stainless steel is higher than carbon steel
About The Handle
In addition to feeling good in your hand, a quality chef’s knife has a well-balanced, comfortable handle. The ergonomic handles of many chef’s knives make them easy to handle.
Handles for kitchen knives are commonly made of wood, laminate, or plastic.
Handling a knife made of wood feels comfortable in the hand. As a result, wood does not last as long as other materials and can harbor bacteria.
Laminates are made of wood and plastic. It’s easy to care for and much more durable than wood, so laminate knife handles look like wood.
Wood is heavy and requires more maintenance than plastic. If the plastic handle of a knife is exposed to high temperatures or UV light, it can crack.
Other Things To Know
When shopping for a chef’s knife, you may come across some unfamiliar terms. Term definitions are given in the glossary below.
Tang: The tang of a knife is the part of the blade that extends into the handle and holds it in place. You’ll typically see a piece of metal running through the center of the handle of a good chef’s knife; that’s the tang. It should be thick enough at both the top and bottom to be visible from both sides of the handle, which is the most desirable. Knives with full tangs feel stable in the hand and are well balanced. Partially tangential handles extend only down their tops or bottoms.
Edge: Knives with sharp edges are called chefs’ knives.
Spine: A chefs’ knife has a blunt spine that is slightly flattened on the blade.
Point: Knife blades have a point at the end.
Blade: A knife without a handle is referred to by this term.
Butt: Knives have a butt at the end of the handle.
Rivets: The rivets on the handle of a knife are small metal dots. The tang is usually secured by three screws, and these screws are found inside the handle.
Heel: Right before it attaches to the handle, the heel is the wide “bump” at the bottom of the blade. With this, the knife has balance and also serves as a handy edge for hard items, such as carrots or nuts.
Bolster: The bolster is the thick part of the blade right in front of the handle. It helps keep your fingers from slipping while you use the knife. Not every chef’s knife has a bolster.
You should hold a chef’s knife tightly between your index finger and thumb, lightly grasping the blade’s spine as you do so. Hold the handle firmly with the three other fingers above the bolster, without exerting excessive pressure. You can control your knife better in this position.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the costs of chef knives?
A. A good chef’s knife can cost as little as $25 and as much as $120. It is reasonable to expect to spend between $30 and $60 on groceries for a typical home cook. You should expect a product with good balance, quality construction, and comfortable handling for a price this high.
Q. Should I purchase a knife set or do I need to buy my knives separately?
A. It may be easy to purchase a complete knife set, but you may also end up with knives that you won’t use. For those who are short on space, knife storage becomes more and more important as you have more knives.
It is ultimately up to you whether you want a knife set or just a single chef’s knife.
Q. How should I store my chef’s knife?
A. Respect is due to good knives. Chef’s knives should be stored in drawers or knives blocks with their blades down; these actions can damage them. Knives should be securely stored in a blade-up knife block, attached to a magnetic knife holder, or stored in a drawer where it can be safely separated from other appliances.
Q. There is a lot of talk about Japanese chef’s knives. What makes them better than western knives?
A. Japan’s knives may be fine utensils, but they are not necessarily superior to western knives. Knives from Japan are generally very thin, light, and sharp. Some find them easy to hold, but it also means they are more susceptible to breaking when they are overused. The Western chef’s knife is generally heavier, thicker, and stronger than its counterpart.